Men’s Cotton Poplin Button-up Shirt
I sometimes wonder what my go-to uniform would be if I were challenged to only wear one silhouette (one week one uniform, anyone?!). It’s an idea I’m having fun exploring these days, though I haven’t come up with any easy answers so far. Yet, when it comes to my husband, I know what his uniform would be - a blue button-up shirt and slacks. And, thanks to this lovely chambray blue cotton poplin from Mood Fabrics and a bit of my sewing time, my husband has yet another blue shirt to add to his daily rotation.
I’ve made this pattern, vintage Butterick 4712, several times now. Each time I’ve made it, I’ve tried to create a unique shirt through my choice of fabric: linen and silk, plaid flannel, solid and striped shirting, and now poplin. This poplin fabric is definitely a favorite, both in color and in feel. It’s described as both ‘cobalt’ and ‘chambray blue’ in color, and I’d say if you thought about a mix between cobalt and chambray, you’d be pretty close to the true color of the fabric. It’s pretty perfect for someone who likes blue, like my husband. These photos make the fabric look a little more vibrant than it really is, despite any attempts on my end to enhance the colors. It has a slightly softer hand than the shirting I used previously, and it doesn’t wrinkle as much as the linen either. It was my first time sewing with cotton poplin, and everything went so smoothly that I now have my eye on several other Mood poplins (hello polka dots, nice to meet you vibrant purple, how do you do crazy floral?!).
Also, each time I’ve made this button-up shirt pattern, I’ve had a slightly different experience. The first couple of times it took me awhile to work my head around the instructions for the front button placket. Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, I feel confident experimenting with ways to better hide the interfacing and finish the seams, and I’m very pleased with the results here.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though. One little hiccup came with the pocket. My husband had asked for one pocket on the front left, which was easy enough to agree to make happen. Since things seemed to be on the up-and-up after the positive placket experience, I decided to step up my pocket game. After looking at a few of his ready-to-wear shirts and seeing that many of them had pockets with nice, soft, rounded corners, I set out to make a similar style pocket. I made myself a little template, cut out my fabric, and tried to man handle the rounded corners into submission. But, it just wasn’t working. I even tried to see whether gathering the seam allowances using a basting stitch would help. In the end I gave up, cut off the offending round corners, turned in the now straight edges, and called it a day. Later I had wondered if starch could have helped. Any tips out there for getting those neat rounded corners?
Everything else went pretty smoothly. I still remember how puzzled I was the first time I sewed together a collar and collar stand. I was following Peter of Male Pattern Boldness’ Men’s Shirt Sew-Along so I was already having my hand held at the time, but I still had to sit down with the instructions and go slowly step-by-step to make sure I understood the process. Now that I’ve gone through the process several times, it’s fun to experiment, try changing up the order of the steps (inspired by Andrea of Four Square Wall’s tutorial), and trust that I’ll still get great results.
I used the burrito method to get a nice finish to my yoke, and I used my stitch-in-the-ditch foot with my needle slightly off-center to get nice, even edge stitching.
The sleeve plackets came together well, too. Or, so I thought until seeing in these photos that this placket’s peak might be slightly off center. Good thing no one’s grading this shirt for perfection! My husband isn’t one to care about little things like that, and he certainly hasn’t said anything about the placket peak placement!
Navy buttons and a neatly turned hem complete the shirt. Speaking of hems, that’s another spot where I’ve tried different methods to see how to best get nice, neat results around all those curves. I’ve tried folding up a quarter inch twice; serging and then either folding up once or twice (using the serging as a guide to get a nice, even fold); and using bias binding as a hem facing. I’m curious what other methods for hemming a shirt are out there? What is your go-to method?
Finally, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve made a pattern, I’m still pretty much guaranteed to learn something new with every make. This time around the lesson was about pre-washing cotton. I only pre-washed this 100% cotton fabric once, and since it’s now been worn many, many times since it was first finished (see what I’m saying about his ‘uniform’ - he likes blue shirts!) and, thus, washed many, many times since that first pre-washing, it’s now noticeably smaller, particularly in the length. It still fits, and he can easily roll up the sleeves whenever the missing length starts to bug him, so it’s not a big deal, but in the future I plan to pre-wash my 100% cotton fabrics at least three times before I cut into them.
What about you – what are your big take homes on making shirts, wearing uniforms, or pre-washing cottons? Any good tips out there?!